Advantages and disadvantages of relative dating
We experience time based on our perception of events and our memory of the events in the past and associate time duration to repetitive events but our ability to comprehend duration remains ultimately subjective, biased by the conditions of our individual experience.
The development of science relies, to some extent, on the ‘invention’ or ‘construction’ of an ‘external’, ‘objective’ concept of time.
Overall, physical and chemical methods of dating can be seen as analytical methods and hence submitted to the usual rules regarding the so-called analytical properties: accuracy and precision, sensitivity, selectivity, repeatability, reproducibility, robustness, security, traceability, etc. Of particular importance in the analytical process are the steps of sampling (representativity and integrity of the sample) as well as the operations of calibration and analysis of errors.
Such methods of dating have in common with analytical chemistry methods the general structure of the analytical process (sampling, determination, data analysis, etc.) as well as much of the operational aspects involved in such process .
The current text, although concerned with a generalized view of dating, will be focused on the physical and chemical methods of dating.
For instance, in the field of archeology, dating can be performed based on epigraphy (analysis of inscriptions and graphemes), paleography (analysis of written documents), numismatics and stylistic analysis.
In the field of geology, fossil markers, in particular, pollen (palynology) and foraminifera and growth marks (dendrochronology, acanthochronology, etc.) are routinely used.
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It is pertinent to note, however, that the physical and chemical techniques of analysis can be applied not only to the direct study of an artifact but also to other materials which accompany the object such as residuals, surrounding soil, etc.